MAPLE GROVE -- If I had any luck, it would be bad luck.
On Monday, I headed down to Rush Creek Golf Club for the Marshall Field's Challenge hosted by Minnesota's favorite golfer, Tom Lehman, for my first up close and personal look at professional golf.
Lehman started the golf event eight years ago to help raise money for the Children's Cancer Research Fund and has had some of golf's greats participate.
Players like Hal Sutton, Tim Herron and Paul Azinger, along with Juli Inkster and Laura Davies from the LPGA, were there to show me what a real drive looks like instead of the worm burners and slices that infect my game like a virus.
But my bad luck won out.
Coming into Maple Grove, lightning flashed and rain fell. Hard. The rain did finally let up and it actually looked like some golf was going to be played. Davies, a veteran of the LPGA, started the festivities with a driving challenge off the first tee. If any of the men couldn't out drive her, then $1,000 dollars would be given to CCRF. Only six men from the PGA out drove her benchmark of 321 yards.
After the first few groups teed off, the unrelenting weather took charge and play was suspended while all the golfers and fans were called off the course. The only good shot I witnessed was a short wedge shot by LPGA player Karen Weiss that nestled up nicely a few feet from the cup on the first hole.
Paul Azinger talked with Laura Davies on the 18th green at Rush Creek Golf Club Monday afternoon at the Marshall Field's Challenge. (Dispatch Photos by Nels Norquist)
As the rain pounded the fairways outside, the golfers inside the clubhouse mingled with the disappointed fans. Kids got autographs and pictures were taken as the pros were able to talk to people in a very relaxed atmosphere, something that doesn't happen everyday on the hectic tour.
"Without a doubt, it's a nice change of pace," PGA pro Duffy Waldorf said of the day's golf event. "The tour has it's own routine and this is a nice routine breaker. We like coming to this event because we get a chance to give back to the people and not have a round where the score matters. It's all about just having some fun."
No scores would matter as play was officially canceled. All of the pros were going to display their golf prowess in a skills competition but that was also nixed. So much for my first chance at getting to see towering drives, pinpoint accurate chip shots and the swashbuckling of crowd favorite Chi Chi Rodriguez.
Even though thousands of golf fans weren't going to be able to see some high quality golf, everyone knew that the day wasn't wasted as more than $500,000 was raised for CCRF.
Paul Azinger, who won the 1993 PGA Championship and is a cancer survivor himself, pointed out that raising the money was the most important part of the day.
"The good news is that whether we play or not, the money's been raised, said Azinger. "Everyone here is in the spirit of giving and unfortunately the show didn't go on. I'm disappointed for the fans and the sponsors that wanted to watch us play but at the same time I'm excited about the amount of money that's been raised."
Ty Tryon, who at 17 became the youngest player ever to earn his PGA playing card, echoed Azinger's thoughts about the event and was even a little nervous about playing Rodriguez.
"I was a little nervous about playing with Chi Chi because he's so interactive with the crowd," Tryon said. "I just was hoping to hit a few balls in the fairway.
"It's an amazing event. I heard all of those touching stories and I just wanted to come out here and be a part of it all."
Another young PGA gun, Luke Donald, feels that this has definitely been the year for the game's youth to shine.
"Especially this year more than the last few years, there have been a lot of really good young players coming through like Charles Howell and Matt Kuchar," Donald said. "I don't think there's been a year like this where so many young players have done so well and it's nice to be a part of that group."
Even though I didn't get to watch my first professional golf event, I did get to see a different side to some professional athletes that many people don't always see. A side that was more interested in doing their part for a good cause.
Maybe my luck isn't so bad after all.
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